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Wisdom Teeth Extraction

What are wisdom teeth?

Also called third molars, wisdom teeth usually make their first appearance in young adults between the ages of 17 to 21. Because most mouths are too small for these four additional molars, an extraction (removal) procedure, sometimes immediately after they surface, is often necessary.

When should wisdom teeth be removed?

The following symptoms may indicate that the wisdom teeth have erupted and surfaced, and should be removed before they cause more serious problems. The wisdom teeth may be partially erupted--meaning, the teeth have partially surfaced and have no room in the mouth to come in completely. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain

  • Infection in the mouth

  • Facial swelling

  • Swelling of the gumline in the back of the mouth

Completely impacted teeth have not come through the gum and may never erupt into the mouth. If they are not causing problems or potential problems, then many dentists will opt to monitor them over time. If the wisdom teeth are causing problems or likely to cause problems, most oral health specialists will recommend an immediate removal of the wisdom teeth. Early removal will help to eliminate problems, such as an impacted tooth that causes the roots of the second molar to dissolve. According to the American Academy of General Dentistry, third molar impaction is the most prevalent medical developmental disorder.

What problems are often associated with impacted third molars?

  • Bacteria and plaque buildup

  • Cysts development (a fluid-filled sac)

  • Tumor development

  • Infection

  • Jaw and gum disease

  • Decay or root resorption of the adjacent tooth 

What is involved in the extraction procedure?

Wisdom tooth extraction surgery involves making an incision through the gum tissue that presides over the tooth, gently detaching the connective tissue between the tooth and the bone, removing the tooth, and suturing (sewing) the opening in the gum. Occasionally, some bone surrounding the tooth must be removed and the tooth may need to be cut into sections to allow removal.  

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Eakle, W. Stephan, DDS
Date Last Reviewed: 3/17/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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